Five of My Favorite Living Directors

"A director must be a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant and a bastard." -- Billy Wilder

When I was younger, I considered being a film director. I studied cinema, made some student films, edited celluloid with a splicer and tape back before digital software made the process easier (or more complicated, depending on whom you ask). But the acting and writing bug bit me a little harder. Still, I continue to love movies and I'm captivated by different directorial styles. I started thinking about who were my favorite directors.

I had to establish some criteria first since there were so many from which to choose. First, I decided to focus only on living directors, so I excluded legends like Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa, John Ford, and a legion of others. Then, I discounted directors who initially inspired me but who've disappointed me with their latest films, such as M. Night Shyamalan, the Wachowski brothers, and George Lucas. I only considered live action film directors, not animation, so that meant no Hayao Miyazaki. I also decided to limit my list to only five, otherwise I could have gone on forever with names like Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, David Fincher, Spike Jonze, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, the Coen brothers, Woody Allen, Ridley Scott, Francis Ford Coppola -- you get the idea. Finally, and this was the kicker, I tried to look at filmmakers who had a distinctive style, whose films you can see and know instantly that they were the director.

So here's my top five favorite living directors, whose movies I love to watch and who I think really bring a unique vision of storytelling to the silver screen.

Tim Burton -- With movies like Edward Scissorhands, Batman, Ed Wood, Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Sleepy H0llow, and others, he creates dark, gothic worlds with characters who are vulnerable outsiders. His films are modern fairy tales and I've enjoyed them all, even his lesser films like Mars Attacks and the remake of Planet of the Apes.

Spike Lee -- He brings a raw quality to his motion pictures with energy and believability. My favorites are Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Crooklyn, Summer of Sam, and Inside Man. And when I met him at a lecture at Fordham University, he proved to be a smart, genuinely nice guy too.

Guillermo Del Toro -- This man can make movies! And they're the kind of movies that totally spark my imagination, such as Hellboy, Blade II, and the brilliant Pan's Labyrinth. I'm definitely looking forward to his interpretation of The Hobbit.

Quentin Tarantino -- I think he's one of the greatest screenwriters of our generation,with a fantastic ear for music, and he brings a power to the screen unmatched by any director. I've been slightly disappointed by his over-reliance on violence, which I think often overshadows the poignancy of his characters' tales. While some might look at Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill, and the rest, as gory glamorizations of the violent side of human nature, I see them as incredible morality tales.

Darren Aronofsky -- His quirky films amaze me: Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, and The Wrestler. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for him.

There are obviously many more directors whose films have an impact on me, but these are the ones that inspire me the most.